Ghana is situated in West Africa, bordering the Gulf of Guinea between Côte d’Ivoire and Togo. Until its independence, it was known as the Gold Coast, the name given by early Portuguese traders who plied their trade in Ghana and along its coast. Like several African countries, Ghana’s history has been marked by power struggles as European nations like Portugal, Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Britain competed for West African trade domination between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. Ghana is blessed with rich gold deposits and towards the end of the sixteenth century was producing 10 per cent of the world’s gold. It is currently Africa’s second biggest gold miner behind South Africa and the world’s number two producer of cocoa.
Ghana’s independence on 6 March 1957 was a momentous period for the country and a fresh start for Africa. The words of Ghana’s first President Dr Kwame Nkrumah that ‘the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of Africa’ was a refreshing pointer that not just Ghana, but the whole of Africa stood at the dawn of a new century. Ghana’s independence, coupled with Nkrumah’s inspiring leadership provided an impetus to the wave of decolonisation which spread throughout Africa in the 1960s.
Ghana became a republic in July 1960 and since then successive Ghanaian presidents have gone on to lay a solid democratic foundation for the country through tactful diplomacy, constructing bridges of understanding and cooperation within Africa, and with bilateral and multilateral partners. Ghana is an active member of the African Union – the presidency of which it chaired for two successive terms from January 2007 – and the UN, among other important international organisations. Ghana also assumed the rotational chair of the UN Security Council in August 2006 and October 2007.
The recent discovery and production of oil in commercial quantities from the West Cape Three Points Block, off the coast of Ghana, combined with the country’s political stability and economic growth, have brought it to international prominence. Ghana’s hopes of joining the league of major oil producing nations and its commitment to being an inspiration to all of Africa and beyond, are within reach. The gas from the Jubilee and Tano fields will hopefully make the country the place of choice for international investors in the coming years. The country currently boasts one of the strongest democracies in Africa with a free press and a strong democratic culture characterised by a vibrant parliament, successive internationally-accredited free and fair elections from 1992 and a strong commitment to enhancing social justice and economic growth.
Ghana has maintained excellent relations with the UK, which is one of its largest trading partners. The two countries cooperate in pursuing mutually beneficial political and economic interests, within the Commonwealth and other international bodies. The quality and strength of the partnership has often been demonstrated by successive UK governments’ support for Ghana’s development programmes over the years, as well as its political progress. The Queen’s visit to Ghana in November 1999 – the second in 38 years – was a symbol of the vibrant relationship between the two countries. Notably, the recent UK state visit of Ghana’s President John Evans Atta Mills in May 2009 also highlighted the strength of the relations, and the importance both countries attach to it.
Ghanaians all over the world are proud of their history, culture and values. Ghana recognises its growing diplomatic presence in West African diplomacy – where it has several times chaired the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – and has also been an important player in the corridors of the UN, through former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose quiet and mature diplomacy brought an appreciable degree of calm into the troubled seas of international political relations. Ghana’s diplomacy, widely recognised by world leaders, is anchored in the belief that the enduring values of peace are a prerequisite for development and international security.
At the recently held FIFA World Cup football tournament in South Africa, Ghana’s Black Stars held the sporting world spell-bound and were two minutes away from being the first African team to ever qualify for a semi-final in the prestigious tournament. The Black Stars have a second opportunity to make African history on 29 March 2011 when they play England for the first time at the Wembley Stadium. It is Ghana’s hope – and the hope of all of Africa – that the team triumphs playing at ‘the home of football’. It’s not an unrealistic dream after all.